In 2016, sexual assault reports in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn were up 62 percent (a jump of five reports) from the previous year, according to statistics reported by DNAInfo. In response to the rise in reported sex crimes, Peter Rose, who heads up the 94th Precinct of the New York Police Department, said at a community meeting that the majority were “not total abomination rapes where strangers are being dragged off the streets.”
In other words, just two of the 13 rapes and attempted rapes reported in the neighborhood in 2016 were committed by people the alleged victims didn’t know. “If there’s a true stranger rape, a random guy picks up a stranger off the street—those are the troubling ones,” Rose said at the meeting. “That person has, like, no moral standards.”
Rose’s comments beg the question of what amount of moral standards a man who rapes a non-stranger possesses. Middling moral standards if he forces a girlfriend into a sex act she doesn’t want to perform? Low but not too shabby moral standards if he rapes a Tinder date after she willingly returns to his home? Minimal but still existent moral standards if he fondles a co-worker while she’s passed out drunk?
“Every rape should be investigated. I wish we could do more. It really becomes a balancing act for the investigators,” Rose told DNAInfo. “Some of them were Tinder, some of them were hookup sites, some of them were actually coworkers. It’s not a trend that we’re too worried about because out of 13 [reports], only two were true stranger rapes.” Rose’s division of rapes into “troubling” and, presumably, “non-troubling” cases might be read as the muddled response of a jaded police captain trying to reassure residents that there’s no random serial rapist on the loose, no rash of abnormal crime to fret over.
But it sounds an awful lot like investigators are balancing “troubling” (read: stranger) rapes with less-“troubling” (read: acquaintance) rapes by spending more effort on the former. Comments like these are a sorry reminder that even institutions that are supposed to protect people from sexual violence can further entrench the victim-blaming tropes that encourage that violence. When a police captain minimizes the severity and trauma of a sexual assault committed by someone the victim knows, he tells potential perpetrators that those acts are bad, but not that bad. He tells future survivors of acquaintance rape that their police reports will be taken less seriously, that what happened to them is not the “total abomination” it absolutely is.
Rape by non-stranger is also by far the most common type of rape, contrary to the stereotype of sexual assault women are taught to fear. According to Department of Justice statistics recorded between 2010 and 2014, only 28 percent of rapes are committed by strangers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts that number at 13.8 percent for female victims and 15.1 percent for male ones. Sexual-assault statistics are notoriously difficult to compile, because many victims don’t report those crimes, in part due to the evidence-informed belief that they won’t be taken seriously. But prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement officials the world over have long cast suspicion and blame on survivors who report rapes committed by dates, partners, or friends.
Here are a few of the unabominable, unsolved Greenpoint rape reports of 2016, from DNAInfo:
On June 14, a 27-year-old photographer told police she was on a shoot when her boss made advances and forced her to have oral sex.
On Nov. 18, a 34-year-old woman who had been out drinking with coworkers was raped in her home after telling a male colleague he could come home with her and sleep on her couch, police said.
On June 4, a woman who met up with someone through a dating website had drinks with the man and then went back to his condo where she was hoping to sleep, police said. He forced her to have oral sex with him and raped her, police said. The woman later flew back to California where she was from, police said.
One wonders if Rose could look these alleged victims in the eye and tell them that what happened to them was less than a total abomination.